SUDAN WATCH: Jan Pronk: Two new Darfur rebel groups G19 & NRF - SLM Abdel Wahid al-Nur declares his aim is to become President of Sudan

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Jan Pronk: Two new Darfur rebel groups G19 & NRF - SLM Abdel Wahid al-Nur declares his aim is to become President of Sudan

Here is the answer to my question about Minnawi and Nur: if Minni Minnawi takes up the top position in Darfur, what becomes of his rival Abdel Wahid al-Nur? UN SGSR Jan Pronk, in his latest blog entry, reveals that this week, Abdel Wahid al-Nur declared that his aim is to become President of Sudan.

Note also, Mr Pronk confirms JEM's aim is not peace but power in Khartoum. Some days I think the Sudanese rebels are all part of one group/strategy.

Jan Pronk blog entry July 22, 2006 - copied here in full:

Ten weeks after the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement the situation is still quite bleak. As I wrote a month ago, the main problems are the lack of implementation and the lack of support. Violations of the agreement continue. Intra SLA fighting has not stopped. Two new movements have emerged. One is called the G19, a group which originally consisted of nineteen people, who were present in Abuja as members or advisors of the SLA delegation, but who increasingly disagreed with the leadership. In Abuja this led to a further split within the SLA, this time without consequences for the negotiations, because the dissenters were not considered strong on the ground. That may have been the case, but the G19 received more and more support amongst those who disagreed with the outcome of the talks. They were able to establish a stronghold in the north-western part of North Darfur, around Musbat and Birmasa. About one month after the signing of the agreement Minnie Minawi's forces attacked them, allegedly with some support from the Sudanese Armed Forces. They fought back, became stronger and presently they seem to be in control of the area concerned.

A second new group is the New Redemption Front (NRF). They seem to have their base in the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which had participated in the Abuja talks. The JEM has never been strong on the ground, but the movement had quite knowledgeable negotiators with well articulated political objectives. They are supposed to have close ties with the Islamist. However, during the negotiations they never took a religiously inspired or ideological position. Their political demands did not include the establishment of a religious governance system in Darfur. Neither did they have specific religious claims with regard to the negotiations themselves (for instance special considerations for prayer time or during Ramadan). The JEM negotiators were both clever and flexible, up to a point. During the negotiations I more and more got the impression that they were not interested in reaching a result. Their objective did not seem to be peace in Darfur, but power in Khartoum. Because a solution in Darfur would also strengthen the position of the ruling party, the NCP, they would not join a peace agreement and always try to convince the other movements to do likewise.

That is the reason why the JEM could so easily change alliances. First, the movement joined forces with the MRND, a relatively small rebel group with a base close to the Chadian border, which was prevented by SLA to participate in the talks and had declared to fight itself a place at the negotiations table. When the SLA split into two factions which could not decide on common representatives, the JEM became their common spokesman, cleverly retarding any progress in the talks. Later JEM became the prime ally of the SLA faction led by Minnie Minawi, despite the fact that the latter's forces had driven them out of their stronghold around Gereida in South Darfur. Until a week before the closure of the talks the new allies were staunchly rejecting the draft agreement. However, when Minnie Minawi and Abdul Wahid traded places at the table, whereby the former signed the agreement and the latter rejected it, the JEM sided with the faction led by Abdul Wahid. After Abuja the JEM declared its intention to join the struggle of the Beja and the Rashaida in Hamesh Koreib in East Sudan. They brought their (little) forces from Darfur to the East. However, the Beja and Rashaida, who together had formed the Eastern Front, started consultations about peace talks with the Government and declared that the JEM was not welcome in the East.

Shortly thereafter, in June this year, the NRF attacked Hamrat al Sheikh, a small town in North Kordofan. It was a shock. For the first time a place outside Darfur had been attacked. Was this an exception, a guerilla attack to surprise and confuse, or would this be the beginning of the extension of the war in Darfur to other regions of Sudan? It had to be strongly condemned, as a brutal violation of the peace agreements, not only the DPA, but also the previous agreements, based on the N'Djamena cease fire, to which not only the Government and the Minie Minawi faction of the SLA are bound, but also the others, including the JEM, Abdul Wahid's faction of the SLA and all those commanders who at that time were part of SLA, but since then have joined either the G19 or the NRF.

Abdul Wahid must have understood this. He does not want to sign, but he also does not want to violate agreements which he has signed in the past. He has publicly dissociated himself from the NRF, keeping the door open for talks. Some secret overtures have been made, but so far to no avail. In the meantime Abdul Wahid is increasing his demands. This week he declared that his aim is to become President of Sudan. It may have been his answer to the nomination of Minnie Minawi, last week, to the post of Chief Advisor of the Presidency, a position created by the Darfur Peace Agreement. This would make Minnie Minawi officially the number four in the hierarchy in Khartoum and also number one in Darfur, heading the provisional government of Darfur, to be established in due time. Talks after the signing of the DPA could have resulted in a deal between Minnie Minawi and Abdul Wahid to split this powerful new position into two functions, one in Darfur and the other in Khartoum. However, this seems to be a foregone option after Minnie Minawi's official nomination (as of today he has not yet been appointed) and his invitation by President Bush to meet him in the White House. As a signatory to the peace agreement he certainly deserves credit. However, it remains to be seen whether these political and diplomatic steps will contribute to lasting peace. Abdul Wahid does not seem to be interested anymore to share power with Minnie Minawi. I am afraid that each week the chances to get more support to the DPA diminish.

In the meantime there are indications that the NRF and the G19 are closing ranks.The G19, after having been attacked by Minnie Minawi's forces, needed support from where ever they could get it. It means that the JEM, which seems to have access to ample financial resources in the Middle East and thus can provide weapons, has found a new ally. There also seem to be Chadian troops involved, but it is not clear whether they receive instructions from their government or from other power groups in Chad. According to the DPA all combating forces should have disclosed there whereabouts and stay in the areas which they controlled at M-day, when the agreement became operational. After verification of these zones by the African Union stability would be guaranteed by the freezing of the status quo and by demarcating buffer zones, demilitarized zones and humanitarian corridors. Instead Minie Minawi's faction has chosen to attack the G19 as well as the troops belonging to Abdul Wahid's faction. In this situation it will be difficult to verify the positions held by the parties on M-day. It seems that all parties, those who signed and those who did not sign, are trying to expand the area under their control.

In particular Minnie Minawi's faction has been accused of attacking civilians as well, with gross violations of human rights. Minnie Minawi has denied this and as long as an investigation has not taken place he should be given the benefit of the doubt. It is possible that his troops acted against his instructions. It would not be the first time that this has happened on either side of the conflict .The AU has refrained from carrying out an investigation, which makes it difficult to ascertain the truth. However, thousands of people have fled their homes. They have told stories which resemble those of last year, when they were attacked by militia.

All these violations should be a first issue on the agenda of the Cease Fire Commission, but so far it has they have not been addressed. Violations always take place after the signing of such an agreement. That cannot be avoided. However, a good cease fire agreement includes the establishment of institutions which can address such violations, if and when they take place. The Cease Fire Commission provided for in the DPA is such an institution. However, it does not yet function properly, because the two signatory parties - the Government and the Minnie Minawi faction - deny access to that commission to the non-signatories. This is understandable, but it is not wise. If the Abdul Wahid faction, the JEM and the new split factions violate the cease fire, which they have done, they should be taken to task. Denying them access to forums which have been established for that very purpose results in ongoing violations, not addressed, giving all parties, including the Government and Minnie Minawi's faction, an excuse to continue fighting, despite their signature. Is that the intention? We do not know, but we do know that we are caught in a vicious circle.

In my discussions during the peace talks in Abuja I have argued that a peace agreement would be a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for peace. We jumped across a hurdle, a high one, but after that hurdle there was a further track towards the finish. However, parties seem to think that the hurdle is the finish. Many international observers who signed the agreement as a witness declare that those who did not yet sign simply should do so, without further ado. That is a justifiable legal position, but politically it will not work. That has become clear in the ten weeks since the signing of the DPA. In many camps the people simply do not trust the parties that signed.

In some camps this has led to violence and to polarization along tribal lines. The anger is also directed against the African Union, which is not being seen as neutral. Instead the AU is being accused of having taken sides. G19 commanders speak about the AU as 'the enemy'. Troops loyal to Abdul Wahid have denied the AU access to regions which they control. AU escorts and convoys have been ambushed. It is not AMIS fault. The AU is only doing what is has to do according the peace agreement, within its limited capacity. But it is high time to invest in confidence building, by addressing all violations without exception, by allowing non-signatories to participate in talks to implement the cease fire, by starting all-inclusive preparations for the Darfur Darfur Dialogue and by including all displaced people, irrespective of their tribe or of their political affiliation, in the reconstruction of their villages. Last but not least confidence building requires a quick, serious, transparent and credible start with the disarmament and demobilization of the Janjaweed. Without demobilization of the militia and a visible disarmament of the Janjaweed the victims of the atrocities will not believe that the Darfur Peace Agreement, upon its signing, was meant to be a jump stride forward on the road towards sustainable peace.

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